The court has just served you with divorce papers, and naturally, you feel that this has turned your life upside down. However, you realize that, sometimes, divorce is unavoidable, so you have no choice but to go through it. However, where do you start?
Once you have received a divorce petition from your soon-to-be ex, you are officially the defendant or the respondent in the divorce process. Your next step is to respond to your spouse's petition. Here is a look at what generating the petition response involves in West Virginia.
Why is your petition response so important?
Filing for divorce is essentially filing a lawsuit, so if you receive a divorce petition from your future ex-spouse, it is akin to receiving a lawsuit in hand. It is critical that you provide a response to the petition's allegations as quickly as possible. If you fail to respond in a timely fashion -- typically 30 days -- you will forfeit your right to make your case regarding matters such as child custody and property division.
What should you include in your petition answer?
Your petition response basically acknowledges that you received your spouse's petition to get a divorce. In addition, you must prepare to state that you disagree or agree with the other party's petition.
Specifically, you will want to state your position regarding your spouse's proposals for dealing with child custody and asset distribution in the petition. As an example, your spouse may express his or her desire to receive sole custody of the children. If you do not think this is fair, you can assert that you feel joint custody would be more appropriate.
What if you do not answer the petition?
Not answering the petition is one of the worst mistakes you can make. After all, if you fail to answer the divorce request, the court will think that you accept all of the terms that your spouse laid out in the petition. As a result, you will lose your right to argue about any aspect of the marital breakup. However, an attorney can guide you through the complex process of responding to a divorce petition in West Virginia so that you can protect your best interests long term.